Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why and How Every Writer Should Treasure What They Cut, Like a Pirate

Novels, nonfiction, blog posts, reports, talks—it’s all the same, the highest level of editing, and most often you, the writer, must do it yourself. 
Cut out chunks of what you wrote.

The quality of your writing might not be the issue. The banished parts might be questionable; then again, they might be stellar. Either way, a whole scene, chapter, illustration, or entire line of thought sometimes hits the cutting room floor because what you wrote doesn’t fit. Maybe your focus changed, or you must pare down to a designated word count, or a minor character tells you he needs his own novel. (I'm told this character rebellion is a real thing. Sounds scary but probably isn't. Much.)

Anyway, so you highlight, press delete . . . and what you wrote is . . . gone? Wait. Destroy writing you not only slaved over but might be good? Are you sure you want to do that? Good is good, like is like (Forrest Gump said that, right?), and what if later you kind of remember what you wrote because you are writing a piece where it would fit nicely—maybe award-winningly? Too bad. You have deleted it forever. For-ever.

Don't do it. Writers, treasure what you must cut—even if at the time you don't think it's much good. Keep it in your version of a treasure chest for later profit, like a pirate, only you didn't plunder to get it, which in writer terms is plagiarism. No, you wrote it yourself and it's yours to keep. Consider now, S.O.R.T., which I just totally, with only some apology, made up: Save it! Organize it! Retrieve it! Try it!

·         SAVE it by copying and pasting it somewhere safe, electronic, and searchable.
·         ORGANIZE it with folders, documents, keywords, and so on—whatever you know will work for you. Reorganize as needed. Maybe the same day you organize your sock drawer.
·         RETRIEVE it when you need a new idea or when it relates to a new piece you're writing.
·         TRY it! If it doesn’t work, save it again. If it does, you can thank me later.

I have a Word BLOG POST folder and a NOVEL folder. Both hold documents labeled with potential blog post topics, pieces of possible dialogue for a novel that popped into my head (or I overheard) somewhere, and so on. But many documents are labeled to recall pieces of writing I cut and have saved. And it is all searchable.

Sorry if you were hoping for a more detailed process for saving your treasure. My intent is simply to encourage you to do it. Do any of you mateys out there have better tips than S.O.R.T.? I can't imagine you do, but . . . do you? If so, please share, in Comments or on Facebook. (Also feel free to talk like a pirate if you can't wait for the day in September designated for that. What could it hurt?)

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